Thursday, 9 April 2015

Heatherwick's head-turning glasshouses at Bombay Sapphire's new Hampshire distillery

Thomas Heatherwick's unique glasshouses at the Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire
Thomas Heatherwick - the designer and architect responsible for the sleek and curvy, new red London Routemaster bus and the promised Garden Bridge set to span the River Thames – is no newcomer to the headlines these days. But now you can see another fine example of his innovative designs at the recently-opened Bombay Sapphire distillery in Hampshire, where you will find a bespoke glasshouse complex that will really set you thinking because of its incredible shape and sense of unity with its surroundings.
The Heathwick glasshouses display the 10 different plant species used in the gin production process
Nestled on the banks of the River Test in Hampshire in the apparently sleepy village of Laverstoke, the two Heatherwick glasshouses are home to a range of both tropical and Mediterranean plants used in the distillation of Bombay Sapphire gin. Heatherwick is responsible not just for the spectacular curvature of the gigantic modern greenhouses, but also the conversion and restoration of 23 existing buildings on the site that were formerly a paper mill. Nothing is wasted here and the heat generated by the distillery process is used the warm the glasshouses.
Heatherwick's glasshouse design incorporates more than 1.25 kilometres of stainless steel frames
The glasshouses are a valuable addition to the site and form part of a slick marketing operation to promote the gin that sells in bright blue glass. And, when I visited at the weekend, I couldn't have asked for better weather because the sky matched the colour of the distinctive Bombay Sapphire bottle. The brand owner - Bacardi - has had the sense to turn their main UK gin distillery into a tourist attraction where visitors are offered the chance to see how gin is made; taken on a whirlwind tour of the ingredients used; and then asked to savour the smell of the various botanicals involved, so they can have a tailor-made gin-based cocktail in the bar at the end of their visit before returning to the real world. 
    Garden visitors will immediately recognise the appeal of Heatherwick's glasshouses even if they aren't gin drinkers. They are quite spectacular, with their riverside location and the extraordinary shapes used in their construction. If you check out the Heatherwick website, you will see that: "The finished built structures are made from 893 individually-shaped, two-dimensionally curved glass pieces held within more than 1.25 kilometres of bronze-finished stainless steel frames. In their entirety the glasshouses are made from more than 10,000 bespoke components."

Heatherwick currently sits at the centre of an ongoing argument about the practicalities of his Garden Bridge project, which received the green light from Westminster Council just before Christmas last year. At an estimated cost of £1.75 million, the bridge has been equated to the High Line garden project in New York City, in terms of its visitor appeal, but battles continue to rage about its both its cost and practicality. 
The Bombay Sapphire distillery opened to the public last year and is certainly worth a visit even if gin isn't your tipple. Your entrance fee (£15.00) includes a tour of the site and affords you the opportunity to ogle at the extraordinary Heatherwick glasshouses, as well as a chance to taste the gin that is made there. And of course, there are many other gardens nearby including the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens at Romsey, West Green House garden and, as summer progresses, Mottisfont Abbey - famous for its roses.

9 comments:

  1. Wow! Imagine finding a contractor for a job like that.

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    1. Agreed, but imagine having the vision to design it!

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  2. Really wonderful! Thanks for sharing Charlotte, as I'm sure I'd not have heard about this from any other source!

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    1. Thanks Alan. It's an amazing project ... that's why I wanted to share it.

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  3. What an incredible structure! I need to add this to my ever expanding Must Visit List. :o)

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    1. Well worth adding to the Must Visit List - I'm really pleased I've seen it.

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  4. That is amazing and very sculptural in appearance.

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  5. This is stunning! I love glasshouses and these are a work of art. I also love bombay sapphire so a visit here is a win-win for me. Sadly I no longer live in Hampshire, but it is on my list for my next visit south. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

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